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Apr 24, 2013 2:00 PM  PST  

GreenPointers: Water Heating 

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GreenPointers: Water Heating

Our series of GreenPointers provides helpful tips for a healthier, greener home in a variety of topics. Today's topic is Water Heating.
Green Pointers

How much are you paying for hot water? If your water use is comparable to typical households, 25% of your energy bill goes to water heating.

A home's hot water system includes the water heater as well as the pipes used to deliver the water. The ultimate gauge of a well-designed system is the speed of hot water delivery and energy efficiency of the entire system. An efficient system will not waste more than two to four cups of water at the fixture while you're waiting for hot water to arrive.

If you're watching gallons go down the drain every time you take a shower, it may be time for some improvements. Here are some tips to help you improve your hot water efficiency.

Step 1


  Given that the typical water heater lasts about 10-15 years, you will eventually need to replace your existing water heater. So what is the best option to choose? For GreenPoint Rated, the answer really varies from home to home and region to region. The six basic options are: Storage, tankless, heat-pump, and solar water heaters, combination water/space heating systems, and on-demand hot water circulation pumps. Get more information for each option here.

Step 2


  Much of the energy used to heat water in homes is lost in long piping runs to sinks, showers and tubs located far from the water heater. Locating the water heater closer to the points where we actually use water reduces heat loss, gets hot water to the faucet or shower faster, and most importantly, reduces water wasted down the drain while waiting for hot water to come out of the tap.

To reduce the amount of water wasted while waiting for hot water to arrive at a fixture, pay attention to hot water pipe layout and pipe diameter. Design the layout so that it has the shortest runs possible, and use the smallest diameter possible for the appropriate fixture flow rate. The system should be designed so that no more than two to four cups of water would be wasted by a person waiting for hot water at a shower or faucet.

The most effective means of reducing energy and water loss is to locate the water heater close to all hot water fixtures, including bathrooms, the kitchen and laundry. A simple guideline is to keep the water heater within 12 feet of all fixtures. Measure this distance in floor plan view (aerial view), not the actual run of the pipes. (For example, if you are measuring the distance from a first-floor water heater to a second-floor shower, you would not include the vertical distance of the piping from the first floor to the second).

If you are not planning a major remodel of your home, you may not be able to change the water heater location. When building a new home or undertaking a major remodel, try to stack or cluster rooms that need water, and create a central core mechanical space for housing the water heater and pipes and integrating the furnace, air conditioner and ductwork.

Step 3


  Consider installing heat traps on your storage water heater. Also known as back flow preventers, heat traps reduce convection heat loss by preventing hot water from circulating in the hot water pipes above the tank. Heat traps are installed in pairs at the tank: one on the hot water side and one on the cold water side. The traps are inexpensive, but require professional installation.

Step 3


  One of the most important aspects of water heater maintenance involves checking, and occasionally replacing, a storage water heater's sacrificial anode. This metal rod keeps your water heater's inside elements from corroding. It should be removed from the water heater's tank every few years for inspection and replaced when more than six inches of core wire is exposed at either end of the rod. This can be done by a plumber or handy homeowner. Refer to your water heater's maintenance manual for the sacrificial anode location, and make certain the cold water supply is turned off before removing it. Information on water heater maintenance can be found at

Read more tips on water heating.

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Source: Build It Green

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